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PAST/PRESENT/NOW - Watercolor Woodblock Prints by Annie Bissett

  • CHARLES KRAUSE REPORTING FINE ART 1300 13th Street Suite 105 Washington, DC 20005 USA (map)

There are many different ways to make prints, and Annie Bissett has mastered one of the oldest and most difficult, moku hanga, dating from 16th Century Japan. Moku hanga is unusual because there's no press involved; the print maker carves a block of wood (or several blocks of wood, one for each color) then creates the print by pressing the woodblock, coated with watercolor paint, against damp paper, by hand. The woodblock carving is painstaking and requires great skill, especially for Annie's prints because they are often extremely intricate and multi-colored, which means as many as five or six different carved blocks.

The issues, or themes, Annie chooses for her prints are often based on her own historical research, which she then "decontructs" to look for meaning relevant to our lives today. One example of this is her "We Are Pilgrims" series, based on research she did to find out more about her forbears, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, who came to America in 1620 aboard the Mayflower, from whom she is a direct descendant.

That research led to court records of the trial of John Alexander and Thomas Roberts, who were found guilty of "lewd behavior" and continuous homosexual acts in 1637. They were both severely whipped; i n addition, John Alexander was branded and banished from the Plymouth colony while Thomas Roberts, an indentured servant, was sent back to his master and forbidden for life from ever owning property. Annie's woodblock print, "God Blesses John Alexander and Thomas Roberts" presents the two men as a couple with words from letters of protest written in 2004 when Gene Robinson was elected Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, becoming the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church.

Annie began her art career as a freelance illustrator,  working with clients such as National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and a wide range of magazines. In 2005, she began printmaking full time. Her woodblock prints have been exhibited throughout the United States, in Japan, and in the U.K., and her prints are in permanent collections at the Boston Public Library, Boston, MA; Yale

Later Event: October 9